Early childhood education service checklist

Published on Thursday, 18 May 2017
Last updated on Friday, 17 December 2021

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Here is a useful checklist covering the questions parents should consider when choosing an early childhood education (ECE) service for their child.

Before You Visit/Over the phone

Does the ECE service have vacancies or is there a waiting list?


Where is the ECE service located and how will you travel there? Would you prefer it to be closer to home, work or a family member’s home? Is it close to public transport or car parking? 


What are the hours of operation and which days of the year is it closed?


Can you change your days of care if your work situation changes? How much notice will you be required to give?


What is the procedure if you are running late to pick up your child? What fees will be charged?


What is the overall fee structure and does the service receive 20 Hours ECE? How is this processed?


Can the ECE service provide advice on applying for government subsidies, such as Work and Income’s Childcare Assistance?


Does the ECE service offer the style of care you’re looking for? Can it meet your requirements in terms of activities, learning, values, language and culture?


Are there age restrictions for enrolment?


How much involvement will be required of you and your family?


Do they offer the services you require, such as meals, nappies and/or specific activities?


Does this ECE service care for a small or large group of children? What size would suit your child? 


Does the ECE service offer an induction program which you and your child can participate in?

During your Visit - Initial impressions

Do you and your child feel welcome?


Can you hear laughter and the sound of children playing?


Are adults and children respectful of, and kind to, each other?


Do the children seem happy, relaxed and absorbed in their tasks?


Do staff members seem interested in your child and did they make an effort to talk to them?


If there is a reception area, is it clean, tidy and organised?


Do the rooms seem well-organised, clean and tidy?


Were you offered introductions to carers and a tour of the ECE service?


What is available for children’s learning and play?


Do you and your child like the outdoor and indoor spaces?


Are there opportunities for your child to be challenged?


How many kids are enrolled and would this be overwhelming for your child?


Is the ECE service licensed? If so, does it meet its licensing criteria and comply with the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008?


Does the ECE service get reviewed by the Education Review Office (ERO)? When was it last assessed? 


What was its ERO report rating, strengths and next steps for development?


Does the ECE service seem safe and secure?


Did the carers greet you at the door and sign you in?


Are the carers easy to identify and do they wear name badges?

Health and safety

Are there procedures in place to document any accidents?


Is there an established fire drill and are exits clearly marked?


How will you be advised if your child is sick or has an accident?


What action are you required to take if your child is sick or has an accident?


Is there a teacher or adult available at all times who can administer CPR and first aid?


Are the carers able to administer medication?


Does the ECE service have a sun protection policy?


Are children required to wear hats and sun block whenever they are outside?


Where do children sleep? What sort of mattresses and coverings are used? Are you required to purchase a set of sheets? Can your child bring their own blankets?


Where are nappies changed? Does the area look clean and hygienic? 


What is the ECE service’s hand washing policy?


What is the procedure in case of a breakout of a communicable illness?

Lines of communication

Were you given a copy of the ECE service’s operating policies and procedures?


Do you agree with the ECE service’s philosophy?


Do you understand what your responsibilities and obligations will be?


Do you understand what the ECE service will take responsibility for?


Will you be required to authorise or provide separate permission for administration of medications and extra curricular activities?


How will you receive feedback about your child's day? Information may include preferred activities, food eaten, children played with and so on.


In what way/s and how often does the ECE service communicate to parents and family about their child’s learning and development?


Are there regular newsletters to keep parents informed about what's going on in the ECE service?


How should you contact the ECE service if you need to talk to staff about something? Should you call, make an appointment, email or drop in?

Management, staff and supervision

Is the ECE service teacher-led or whānau/parent-led?


Who manages the ECE service? Can you meet them?


Does the manager also supervise the staff?


What are the staff to child ratios at the ECE service? How much individual attention does each child get? Will your child be assigned to a group with a primary caregiver? How many adults are available to the children overall?


What background checks are completed on staff?


What qualifications and experience do staff members have? What percentage are qualified ECE teachers?


What is the staff turnover rate?


Is there a balance between older and younger carers, and men and women?


Does the ECE service have staff members from a range of ethnic backgrounds?


Does the ECE service have a clear procedure for dealing with complaints against staff? What is it?


Does the ECE service hold adequate insurance?


Do staff members interact with children or have a minding role?


Are children supervised at all times?


How do staff members deal with behavioural issues?


What will happen if your child becomes upset for some reason? 


If your child has/will have a sibling at the ECE service, will they be separated from each other? 


Are the staff warm and engaged in what they’re doing?


Do you feel comfortable approaching staff to chat and ask questions?

  What are the daily fees?
  Can you claim the Child Care Subsidy?
  Does the service offer 20 hours ECE?
Food and mealtimes

Are there high standards for food preparation and cleanliness?


Is all food cleaned up after snack and meal times?


What time is food offered? Is food available outside of these times if children are hungry?


Are children allowed to eat at their own pace?


What happens if your child doesn't eat at the designated time?


Is water offered and available all day?


What food/beverages are you expected to provide?


How does the ECE service cope with food allergies and intolerances?


Can the ECE service accommodate individual dietary requirements?


Is there a weekly menu on display? Does it look interesting and varied?


Does the ECE service have a nutrition policy and do you agree with the policy?


What is your ECE service's approach to cakes/birthday treats?

Daily timetable

Does the ECE service have a daily timetable which you can see?


Can your child's individual needs be accommodated if necessary?


What sleep routine does the ECE service have? 


What is the procedure for children who don't want to sleep?


Is the building light and pleasant to be in with good ventilation and/or air-conditioning?


Does the building seem well maintained?


Is there plenty of space for the children to play?


Does the outside play equipment accommodate children of all different ages?


Is there an outside area with plenty of shade?


Are there places where children can go for quiet play?


Are the toilets and sinks clean and easy for the children to use?


Are the sleeping areas separate to the play areas?


Do children of different ages have separate areas to play or do they interact?

Toys and equipment

Is there a wide range of toys and books provided for the children?


Are the toys at the right height for children to reach?


Can you see a range of toys suitable for children of all age groups?


Do the toys look clean and intact?


Can parents and children get involved in decisions about the purchase of new toys and equipment?


Do staff members help children play with the toys?

Planned activities and programs

In what way does the ECE service follow the Te Whāriki curriculum? How are individual learning programmes created? And what will your child learn?


Does the ECE service offer documented diaries or learning stories where parents can view the activities of the day?


Are there online/social networking forums where parents can keep track of their children during the day?


Is there a set daily routine?


Does the ECE service offer a range of programmes for the children to participate in?


Do these programmes cater for all ages? How are these programmes developed? Are they designed to be educational? Do they take into account the cultural and religious diversity in the group?


What percentage of your child's day will be spent on planned programmes and what percentage will be spent on free play?


Are there opportunities for your child to make choices about activities that reflect their interests?


Does the ECE service enable children to participate in activities they might not be able to do at home, such as painting, water play, collage making and playing in a sandpit?


Does the ECE service do excursions? If so, what is the cost and how are they managed?

Babies and toddlers

Is a primary caregiver assigned to babies and/or toddlers?


What is the staff to child ratio for babies and/or toddlers?


If your child is breastfed, is this encouraged and supported? And, if so, how?


How are babies fed at mealtimes?


How will the ECE service support you in toilet-training your child?


If you wish to use cloth nappies, is this encouraged?

Identity, language and culture

Will the ECE service celebrate and support your child as a bilingual learner? And, if so, how? 


Are there teachers or adults that share the language/s your child speaks at home? 


Are there conversations held in the language/s that your child speaks at home between children and children, or adults and children?


Are there examples of labelling, pictures, play equipment etc that reflects the written language and culture of your whānau and other families enrolled in the ECE service?

Special education needs

What experience do the teachers and adults have in supporting children with similar needs to your child?


How will teachers and/or adults engage with the things your child is passionate about?


How will teachers and/or adults ensure your child is welcomed by the other children and can learn alongside them?


What experience have other parents of children with special education needs have with the ECE service?


Is there suitable access to rooms and toilet facilities?


What are the grounds like? Are they level, or uneven and steep?


Is there good off-street parking for easy access?


Is the ECE service close to anything that may cause noise distractions, such as an airport or main road?


What support is there if I think my child needs help? Is there someone in particular I can talk to about their early learning and/or development?


For a printable version of the checklist click here.

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